Monday, August 13, 2007

summer 2007 (rhinelander)

as long as i was in the midwest, i made sure to spend several days in the northwoods of wisconsin with the rest of my family (about a 4.5 hour drive northeast of minneapolis). my dad, stepmom, and two younger sisters were all there, as well as one of my bestest friends. as it turned out, an old boyfriend (my first boyfriend, in fact, when i was in 9th grade!) just happened to be in town that very same weekend for his wedding. he (craig) has been living up in alaska for the last several years and though we occasionally send each other an email now and then, we really hadn't seen each other in i think at least 7 or 8 years. so it was a really lovely serendipity that he was in town on the same weekend i was in town! (and no, i did not plan it that way. it just happened. that's what's so cool about it!) we met up briefly for an evening of shooting pool and hanging out at a bar that is owned by a friend from high school, and it was just wonderful to catch up with him again. AND because craig was getting married, another friend/old boyfriend from high school (matthew) was in town too because he was invited to the wedding! so i got to see matthew and his new fiancee, and all sorts of other people i hadn't seen in ages and ages, so it was GOOD.

and another good reason to be in town that weekend was because rhinelander was having its 125th birthday party! hooray! there were several small events held downtown on a saturday afternoon. they blocked off all the streets downtown so that folks could just walk around and enjoy the gorgeous weather and the street vendors, and it was really cozy and boring, but in a quaint sort of way. there was a beard-growing contest, which i thought would be more popular than it was, but was still entertaining. there were only about half a dozen people who were in the contest. (i was picturing 20 or more, with awards like "fuzziest beard," "dirtiest beard," "beard with the most crap in it," etc. but they only gave out one award, for "longest beard" and that was a whopping 2 inches!) apparently you had to shave your beard completely off in order to enter the contest, so maybe that's why it wasn't a very popular contest, because i imagine the only people who really wanted to join a beard-growing contest were people who already had beards, and maybe they'd been growing them out for such a long time that they didn't want to have to shave it off and start all over again. anyway, there was a man in a tophat with a comb and a ruler, measuring everyone's beards down to the 16th-of-an-inch, and it was all very grand in a stupid sort of way. i liked it way too much.

dad, rosie, and me all went down to the lions booth that morning because they were having a pancake breakfast, all you can eat, for $5! breakfast! yay! and i don't even really like american pancakes (dutch pannekoeken are much better), but the maple syrup and promise of sausages was too much for me to resist. we sat in the hot, bright sunshine, and everyone there was just so friendly and sweet to us, and i ate more than i should have, and they had to shovel me out of there when it was time to clean up so that they could hold their bingo game.

there were also stands for corn on the cob (sponsored by our local public radio station, wxpr, which is also managed by matthew's dad), and another one with deep fried cheese curds. mmmmm... deep fried cheese currrrrrrds.... aaaaahhhhh.... check out this picture of the cheese curd stand parked in front of the gym. very typical rhinelander!

one night me and my parents went down to the bandshell by the grocery store. it's about a three-block walk, so we strolled down there with our lawnchairs and spare change, and found a place in the shade alongside the mighty wisconsin river. (also conveniently situated a few feet from the very same deep fried cheese curd stand. it's one of those mobile, trailer-style stands, so the same merchants are everywhere. it's quite convenient.) there was a free concert that evening featuring a bluegrass band, and i love Love LOVE bluegrass! it was cute and fun, and everyone there was over 65 and was either wearing flannel, a seed cap, or packers gear. ah, my town. follow this link to watch a very brief video of the band and my neighbors enjoying a free concert in the cool evening air. (notice the rosie is already eating her cheese curds in the video! tasty!)
i stayed with my best friend, jami, who has been friends with me since 8th grade. her mom was my first cheerleading coach, and jami and i were cheerleaders together all through high school. she just bought a house a little while back and it's so cute! unfortunately, we didn't stay at her house because she was housesitting for her aunt who lives several miles out of town, in the middle of the woods. i mention this because i got locked out of the house my first day there. jami had gone in to work, and i had to let one of the dogs out because he was being a fart and wouldn't go out earlier when jami tried. so i grab his collar, lead him outside, close the door behind me, and as i turn to go back in the house, i realize that i just locked myself out. and i'm in the middle of nowhere, in my pajamas, with no car keys and no cell phone (cuz they're both inside the house). and jami wasn't planning on being back until suppertime.

so what do i do? i break in, of course. i break in to a house i've only stayed at one night, the house of people whom i've never met, with four crazy dogs barking hysterically at me as i try to do this thing. (good dogs! they knew something was up!) i look around everywhere for a spare key, but no luck. so i try one of the garages. it's locked too. fortunately, there was another garage that was unlocked, so i snooped around in there until i found a ladder and a knife. so i propped up this ladder against the house, slit the sides of the screen, pulled out the screen (which i could only do if i also removed the storm windows attached to it), and then somehow shimmied my way, cat-woman style, in over the kitchen sink. (good thing it was my first full day in town so that i hadn't eaten any of those deep fried cheese curds yet, or i might not have fit through that window!) it was ridiculous. i felt so bad. and then i couldn't figure out how to put the window back together, so i just left them some money to get it fixed themselves, because i just couldn't bear to get myself back on that ladder again to put everything back the way it needed to be. i'm such a bad houseguest.

let's see what else? ... my gramma ended up coming to town. (she's the one on the left in the pretty, pale pink shirt. see? always stylish, my gramma! the other lovely lady in the picture is my great aunt mary, but we all call her "auntie babe." i don't know why we call her that. but we do.) because she was on a road trip with her girlfriends. they went to door county and were on their way to a llama farm in phillips, so they decided to pass through rhinelander to do some boutique shopping and have some lunch. so i got to go boutiquing with gramma and her girlfriends! how fun! we went to those kinds of stores that have all those stupid little signs for sale that say things like "i childproofed my house but they keep getting in" and "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", and all sorts of crap that only people with cats could love, and lots of little stuffed animals drinking tea and wearing hats and stuff. it was sweet. i had a really fun time.

i also saw my sisters, but realized that i didn't take any pictures of them when i was there. so here's a couple of older pics of me with katie and kelsey. when i was there, kelsey was living in an apartment a few blocks from home with her boyfriend, and was still working at the subway restaurant where she had been working for the past several years. katie at the time was living and working in rhinelander, but just a few weeks ago ended up moving to vegas. the phone message on my voice mail went something like this: hey, big sister, it's me. ummm, i'm moving to vegaaas, like, um, toniiiight. and i'm gonna drive through denverrrr, and so, like, i wanna see you. okaycallmebackbye. um, okay. and she actually did. i really thought she and a friend would get as far as minneapolis and realize that $100 and a half tank of gas wouldn't get them as far as they had imagined. but no, she ended up making it the whole way. i'm really proud of her. it takes a lot of guts to get up and leave everything familiar behind, with no money and no job, but just a hope to get out and do something different. rhinelander, for better or worse, is a hard place to leave/escape, and she just had to do it or it wouldn't have gotten done. you need to take control of your life or someone else will do it for you. so i'm proud of her and inspired, and i hope she gets it all figured out cuz it's a big, scary thing to do.

and i think that's about it. just a few short days back home to see everyone i wanted to see, and i did it. it was good.

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